All tucked in for winter

A quick post on what I do to get my bees ready for winter. Here’s how the hives are looking right now.

Poly hive with woodpecker protection

Over the years I’ve found this works for me:

  • A thymol based anti-varroa treatment in late August – I count this as part of my winter preparations, as it’s about the bees being able to rear healthy young workers to last the winter.
  • Feeding 2:1 strength sugar syrup in September (though this year I haven’t and left a super of honey on each hive instead – we’ll see how well that works out)
  • Mouse-guard on (late October-early November, once ivy pollen has stopped coming in)
  • Chicken wire cage put around the hives when the first frosts arrive, to protect against woodpeckers
  • Fondant put over crown board during December, then topped up as necessary
  • Sheets of loft insulation tucked in over crown board, to keep the top of the hive insulated
  • Open mesh floor on bottom of hive
  • Hives strapped down, with a brick on top to protect against the wind
  • Oxalic acid drizzle done around the winter solstice

What works for you?

I am still not very confident about overwintering in Cornwall, as the weather is so soggy here compared to London. We’ve had a few mini-hail storms since November. Also I’ve taken a risk by not feeding syrup in autumn as I would normally do.

The life of a winter bee is all about hunkering down, keeping the queen warm and surviving the short, cold days. Below is an illustration I did a few years ago of the differences between a summer bee’s abdomen and a winter bee’s abdomen. When it’s too cold to fly, the winter bee stores up all her waste inside… imagine the relief when she finally gets out! My bees have still been flying, so are not at this stage yet.

Summer bee/winter bee abdomens

About Emily Scott

I am a UK beekeeper who has recently moved from London to windswept, wet Cornwall. I first started keeping bees in the Ealing Beekeepers Association’s local apiary in 2008, when I created this blog as a record for myself of my various beekeeping related disasters and - hopefully! - future successes.
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12 Responses to All tucked in for winter

  1. I’m beginning to think beekeeping might not be the best activity for me because I would worry about them all winter, and that would have a negative effect on my health. Heck, I wake up at night wondering if the Christmas tree has enough water! #needstochill
    I hope all your darlings (those indoors as well as out) are safe and warm. 🙂

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    • Emily Scott says:

      I used to worry about them till I had a kid and another on the way – now I’m too distracted by them to have any time to worry about the poor bees!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, that explains it: I’m at the other end of the parenting spectrum (finally!) With my birds out of the nest, my over-active parenting brain is latching onto anything that requires attention. I hope that will fade a bit over time…so I can consider beekeeping again. 🙂

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  2. We are experiencing our first wet autumn and winter. However, the temperature is mild and the bees get out as soon as there is a blink of sun, actually as long as it is mild even without the sun. I do not know if this will make a difference to them. You seem all ready for the winter. Amelia

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  3. Best wishes for the birth of your second child Emily. I hope your bees also do well during our soggy west country winter!

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  4. I started using Broodminder (by a modest donation to a crowd funding a few years ago). I found them to be excellent. I device which is easy to slip between boxes and gives an easy way to monitor temperature and humidity within the hive. They have a remit for ‘citizen Science’ and if you have their equipment you can share the information anonymously so others can use your data alongside that from others and perhaps lead to more knowledge to help the bees. The data can be found on Beecounted https://map.beecounted.org/citizen_science/embedded_map . Search for Broodminder to see equipment and costs. The pound is stronger against the dollar since our latest election, so it would be nice to see more pins in the map for the UK I love reading your blog, Emily. You have managed to make it interesting and keep it going despite all your family upheavels. Have a great Christmas and may your bees thrive into spring.

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  5. Erik says:

    I just did an OA dribble today. We had 50 F (10 C) today and the bees were flying, getting cold tomorrow so good time for it. Happy wintering!!!

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